Headline-grabbing interview with an alleged rebel commander near Aleppo lacks credibility

Christoph Reuter reports: The interview lasted around 10 minutes. It was filmed in the picturesque setting of a stone quarry near Aleppo and caused a stir around the world. Even the Russian foreign minister is reported to have mentioned it in a telephone conversation with his American counterpart. In the video, an alleged commander in rebel-held eastern Aleppo made statements that strangely confirmed the war propaganda being propagated by the Assad regime — that America is indirectly supporting al-Qaida and that the rebels are opposed to aid deliveries to civilians. But indications are mounting that the interview may not have been authentic.

Jürgen Todenhöfer, a former member of German parliament with the conservative Christian Democratic Union party and a prominent author, conducted the interview. Todenhöfer has claimed that his interview partner, whose face was masked entirely, was a commander with the Syrian radical group formerly known as the Nusra Front, a group that renamed itself in August and split again from al-Qaida. Abu Al Ezz, as the man is introduced in the video, claims that the rebel group has been armed with modern anti-tank weapons by the US. “We’ve had” officers from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and even from Israel “here during the siege.” The interview subject also said the rebels were opposed to aid deliveries to the besieged civilians in East Aleppo, saying: “If a truck comes in anyway, we will arrest the driver.” It is an astonishing statement. It was the radicals themselves who were largely responsible for breaking through after Assad’s troops encircled Aleppo, making food deliveries possible in the first place. This engendered considerable popularity for the Islamists, even among their ideological opponents.

Even more puzzling than the contents of the interview is the site where it is alleged to have been filmed. Which side of the front it was actually filmed on is crucial in terms of determining the video’s credibility. During the drive into the quarry, a voice altered in editing to hide the person’s identity can be heard saying, “I mean, if they need to do anything bad, we’re stuck.” The sentence fragments suggest they are entering dangerous terrain. Problematic, though, is the fact that a young man in an army uniform, and without a beard, is walking in front of the car. Such is the normal appearance of Assad’s soldiers, but not that of Nusra fighters. [Continue reading…]

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